The State Bar of Texas, the Texas Access to Justice Commission, the American Bar Association, and others proudly support the National Pro Bono Celebration (Oct. 19-25). Pro bono week is an opportunity to educate the public about the good work the legal community is doing to improve the lives of vulnerable Texans and to encourage more people in the legal community to get involved. Today, we feature Taylor Lamb for her invaluable work in the Houston legal community.
The Houston Bar Association, the Houston Bar Foundation, and the HBA’s Houston Volunteer Lawyers established the Veterans Legal Initiative in 2008 to serve the legal needs of Houston’s large veteran population. In 2011, a Texas Access to Justice Foundation grant allowed the initiative to partner with other bar associations to establish Saturday legal clinics in a 17-county area where low-income veterans had little access to pro bono legal services.
Kathy* came into one of those legal clinics, in Lake Jackson, needing a divorce. Originally married in January, Kathy was the victim of an assault by her husband, Brad*, at the beginning of May. The Brazoria County Sheriff’s Department arrested Brad, who was on felony probation at the time he assaulted his wife and was held on a no-bond status.
Freed from an immediate physical threat by her abusive husband, Kathy was able to move out and purse legal remedies to dissolve their marriage and ensure her future safety. Through the Veterans Legal Initiative, she was matched with volunteer attorney Taylor Lamb, who obtained IOLTA certification for Kathy’s case and had her husband served in the Brazoria County jail.
Licensed in 2010, Lamb is an associate who handles corporate and transactional matters at Gray Reed & McGraw, P.C., in Houston. Since the firm started its pro bono program two years ago, Lamb has handled pro bono cases for Houston Volunteer Lawyers, primarily through the Veterans Legal Initiative.
“There are so many in need,” she said. “They are so grateful when you take the time to listen to them at the clinics. If there is something you can do, you want to do it.”
When Lamb met Kathy, she knew she wanted to help her. “She was an injured veteran who was very young,” Taylor said. “She was younger than me, and she had already had this whole life experience. It was hard to see someone that young who had already gone through so much.”
In addition to handling the divorce, Lamb had to obtain protective orders for Kathy and represent her in hearings in Brazoria County. While it was “a little intimidating,” Lamb said the court experience and interaction with the judge were very positive. She credits her firm’s family law group and the support she received from Houston Volunteer Lawyers with making it easier to handle the case.
Brad pleaded guilty to assault of a family member and was sentenced to 120 days in the county jail. Six days after his release, Lamb finalized the divorce for Kathy, a relatively quick turnaround made possible by a dedicated volunteer and what Lamb describes as “the perfect client.”
“She was so patient and brave in working through the traumatic facts of the case,” Lamb said. She was touched that at the final hearing, Kathy brought a notebook she kept throughout the legal proceedings containing all of the emails Lamb had written to her. “She was so visibly relieved to have this behind her.”
Lamb’s firm started its pro bono program in 2012, and it enjoys great support from firm leadership, she said. The firm sponsors legal advice clinics and is partnering with Houston Volunteer Lawyers to provide new quarterly clinics at the Houston Area Women’s Center.
“It’s so nice to be able to furnish this service,” Lamb said.
*Names have been changed to protect client confidentiality.